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Murietta Falls via Ohlone Wilderness Trail

A tough-but-rewarding hike to the San Francisco Bay Area's highest waterfall.

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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length: 11.9 miles
Duration: Full day

Overview :  It takes strong legs and an even stronger sense of humor to take on the trek to Murietta Falls.

If you can laugh off the prospect of... more »

Tips:  This hike is not for rookies -- it's very strenuous.

Best time to see the waterfall is after several days of rain in mid to late... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Lichen Bark Parking Area

From the Del Valle Regional Park gate, take the park road over the dam, turn right, and go to the Lichen Bark area at the far end of the parking lot.

Look for the Ohlone Wilderness Trail sign. With Lake Del Valle behind you, it will be up and to your left.

The trail starts climbing immediately, but not terribly steeply by the standards of this ... More

2. Sign-in board

After a mile you'll come to the sign-in board for Ohlone Wilderness Trail.

Write your name and departure time on the clipboard. (Don't forget to sign it on your way out.)

From here it's a very steep climb up to the Stromer Spring junction, about .8 of a mile away.

3. Stromer Spring

Catch your breath at the T intersection near Stromer Spring (there's a water trough over to the right just past this trail junction). This water should be filtered just to be safe.

Bear left to stay on the Ohlone Wilderness Trail. An option is to take Stromer Spring Trail to Rocky Ridge Trail, a gentler climb that adds about another half-mile of... More

4. East Bay backcountry overlook

This section of trail tops out at Marker 38 on the Ohlone Wilderness Trail, with an awesome view of the remote terrain.

Keep going straight here if you've stayed on the Ohlone Trail.

If you've taken Rocky Ridge spur, it'll be a right turn. This the last climb for awhile, just enough to rest up for the Big Burn.

5. Creek crossing

After a steep descent you come to a creek at Williams Gulch -- don't try to cross at the first obvious area: that trail dead-ends in the woods.

Take the narrow single-track up to the right, and stay on the trail till it returns to the creek.

Crossing will be dicey in high water -- be very careful as you look for rocks to cross.

6. The Big Burn

Last major climb: over 1,400 feet of ascent in just over two miles. Take your time and enjoy the scenery.

Even with the grinding ascent, this single-track trail is one of the prettiest in the East Bay.

7. Schlieper Rock

This large formation tells you you're almost done with the climb, but alas there's about 300 feet to go over the next quarter mile.

Stay on the Ohlone Wilderness Trail after it tops a ridge looking over a pond over to your right. Pause at the next trail intersection.

8. Right turn towards Murietta Falls

You get off the Ohlone Trail here (Marker 35): turn right, and go about a quarter-mile to the next trail junction. This trail is flat and practically restful compared to the rest of the trails on this trip.

9. Left turn here.

Trail descends rather sharply in places, arcing to the southeast and crossing a creek after about .6 of a mile.

This creek carries the water over Murietta Falls. Step over it and follow the trail to your right.

10. Approach trail to Murietta Falls

After you cross the creek, you'll see a narrow, rocky trail tracking a stony gorge that leads to the falls.

Eventually this trail becomes quite steep, requiring very careful footwork to get down to the falls.

11. Base of Murietta Falls

Great place to break for lunch, take a few pictures and admire the falls, if there's any water running.

From here you can retrace your steps -- the return hike is much easier.

12. Optional spur: Rocky Ridge

If you skipped Rocky Ridge on the way up, consider trying it on the way back -- if you've got enough time and energy.

Most likely you'll have the trail to yourself.

Turn left from Marker 38 and go about .69 of a mile on Rocky Ridge Trail.

Turn right at Stromer Spring Trail and follow it .43 of a mile to the junction with Ohlone Wilderness... More